The system of public education in America started before 150 years and is changing according to the change in American society. Due to changed circumstances in educational field, the goals and methods of high school education is undergoing constant change. So it is difficult to point out the most suitable method of high school education. The traditional method of learning what the teacher teaches and focus on intellectual and factual learning were suitable for the needs of old generation. But, now this system is considered as outdated and new educational and instructional theories like progressive educational theory and ideas on essential schools by Theodore R. Sizer are in focus. But the change must suit the goals of education, to carry out dynamic explorations, optional means, and measurement of achievement of the student.
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The theories and criticisms of Theodore R. Sizer on the existing educational system are important. By providing proper guidance, motivation and appropriate learning experience, teacher can help the student to achieve success. There exists an ambiguity in the role of a teacher. Earlier, the teacher was considered as the only person who can provide value education to the student. But now, the high school students learn more beyond their classroom.
The best methods of high school education are: public schooling method, progressive educational method, essential schooling method, and comprehensive schooling method. The public schools play an important role in high school education. They respect the rights and values of a diverse population. Earlier, the schools were small, with simple and focused curriculum. But, now the schools are overcrowded with students and the teachers are unable to provide individual attention to their students. The traditional way of high school education was without the direct involvement of parents. Today, the progressive teaching methods which are based on grading and assessment tests, concentrate on relativism and self-esteem of students. So, parents are not considered as passive participants in education, but are supposed to be the part of school community. The essential schools, formulated by Theodore R. Sizer consist of 80 students under a teacher. The students who show the tendency of fighting each other and drug addicted are out of the class. The control of the school is in the hands of principal. Admission to this school is open to all students statewide. The democratic side of this school system is that parents are considered as the vital members of school community. The establishment of comprehensive school system in America is to raise the achievement of all student groups. This system aims to reduce the achievement gap between low income students and other students that are more advantaged. Difference in achievement levels of students in the same class creates problems in the classroom. So, this educational system aims to provide individual attention to each student. The comprehensive high school system or method is helpful to recognize and support the student.
One of the goals of education is to provide equal opportunity to all student regardless color, cast or creed. It is the duty of the society to help the under privileged students to be equal in education. This will help these less advantaged students to succeed in later life. Moreover, there must be an attempt to nourish positive attitude among the high school students. The role of parents in education is less and it is supposed to be more active. Parents can help their children to learn beyond curriculum because the changed circumstances tend the student to learn by their own. It is evident that the environment at home influences the performance and achievement at school. In fact, ignorance from the side of parents hinders the full fledged achievement of students. Theodore R. Sizer and Nancy Faust Sizer in their article- ‘A School Built for Horace’ are of the opinion that most of the parents are ignorant about the role of education on character development. So the first step must be to create a healthy school culture. There must be a cordial relation among teachers, students and parents. “Creating a healthy school culture almost demands small scale. A community where people do not know one another is a place that must be policed rather than gathered. Developing the habits of getting along in constructive, principled ways is not simply a matter of building small schools, though.” (Sizer and Sizer, Nancy Faust).
When there is a change in school environment, gradually the parent will change and it helps the whole education system. It can be seen that the role of parents in education is vital. But unfortunately, most of our parents think that they do not have any role in educational process. Moreover, the think that all the problems related to learning will be solved by the teacher. But the reality is that most of the teachers are unable to provide individual attention to each student. If the parents keep contact with teachers, the problems faced by students in learning can be easily resolved.
The economic inequalities that can be seen in our society badly affect the process of education. For example, due to economic shortage, some schools are reducing the funding on extracurricular activities. This will badly affect the students from poor family conditions, and to an extent, the social and academic growth of students. Earlier, in the high school environment, girl students faced the problem of marginalization. But now it is different and the future seems to be better. In this situation, the government should act as a monitoring or controlling agent on educational system. Bonnijean Fry in his article- ‘The Educational Theory of Theodore Sizer’, points out that the role of government in three levels as an organized institution is important. If there is a higher authority to control and monitor the functioning of schools, there will be more pressure for achievement. So, the government must not act only as a funding agency for development in educational field. The proper involvement of the government will result in a healthy competition among the schools. “Government, on all three levels, national, state and local is involved in education along with individual schools. Measuring achievement should come from student presentation of “exhibitions” rather than standardized tests mandated by the national and state government.” (Fry).
The standardized tests constructed by national and state government are unable to measure the achievement level of the student because it is based on the traditional technique of memorization. Here, there is high chance of failure for a student who is poor in memory power. So the measurement of individual student is to be based on his/her presentation of ‘exhibition’ i.e., skill. The total rejection of traditional method of education in high schools is not good because some subjects like Arithmetic and Basic science is to be learned by acquiring a strong foundation for higher-level thinking and problem solving. To other subjects, progressive education methods are more suitable because it provide equal opportunity to all students.
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Before summing up, one can see that there is no educational method which suits to all periods. Today’s students are tomorrow’s citizens. The aim of education is to mould the character of the individual with proper socialization. So there must be a co ordination between end result of education, i.e. good education for all students, and the means of education, i.e. traditional and progressive methods of education. The society wants a well-rounded student who can perform the duties that are supposed to be undertaken by an ideal citizen. The traditional method was suitable for the last millennium but the new millennium exerts more challenge to education and it must undergo transformation. The goals and methods of high school education in America are jointly changing the educational scenario. So the society must be ready to accept the change. But another fact is that the system of education must be far away from political influence and pressure. Narrow politics corrupts the educational system. Only a joint effort of parents, school systems and society can co ordinate the goals and methods of education. There must be efforts to solve the problems of overcrowded classrooms, inadequate materials, program cutbacks, and less qualified teachers. These problems are general to all educational methods. So it must be solved. The future of high school education is bright in America because there is enough room for experimenting new methods and there are so many best education methods to choose from. The traditional method is never out dated, but it was ready to undergo change according to changed circumstances. Moreover, one must keep in mind the fact that innovative method in high school education is the part of a great tradition of public school system in America.
Fry, Bonnijean. The Educational Theory of Theodore Sizer: Theory of Society. New Foundations. 2002. Web.
Sizer, Theodore R. and Sizer, Nancy Faust. A School Built For Horace: Culture Matters. Hoover Institution. 2001. Web.